Timothy Rogers, M.A., L.M.F.T., Psychotherapist
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
"It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength."
Tim's Blog - Pulling back the Psychotherapy Stigma curtain.
"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself." - Dr. Maya Angelou
YOUR LAST THERAPIST - MY FIRST BLOG ENTRY
"There is no greater battle in life than the battle between the parts of you that want to be healed and the parts of you comfortable and content remaining broken."
January 1, 2018
Only the Lonely - A Poem
The earth at night, at least from my point of view, screams for the dawn in a violent whisper that only I can hear. - T. Rogers
It took me so long to pass my LMFT exam that those I mentored during my internship had interns themselves! I tried hypnosis, studying too much and not enough. Here's what I figured out...for me: in the simplest of terms, but not so conservative numbers of words.....I was unconsciously unaccepting of my rightful place as a licensed, knowledgable, and worthy professional.
I mean, I had the best reputation as one of the most successful interns in an extremely competitive and saturated field in Beverly Hills. My supervisors would basically leave me alone to do the deep work with very difficult clients. But on some level, some very deep early underdeveloped level, I could not, would not accept that this was meant for me to not only have, but thrive within!
It wasn't the material, the effort or the temperature of the exam room (although can someone please tell me why they feel the need to freeze everyone out??), it was that I needed to step back, get still, and recall that although I KNEW I had come a long way (an extremely long way actually), I had THOUGHT that I had quieted that ironically insecure yet powerful voice that questioned my right, my deserving, my expectation of self-actualization. When really, I had only negotiated a temporary contract with my lonely, insecure and clearly anxious self.
This contract allowed me motivation and ambition, but only for so far and for so long. In other words, I needed to consider who I would need to be once I became licensed. That person is someone who absolutely forgives himself when he makes mistakes. That person unequivocally takes an empathic stance with himself first before he can give to others. He is more confident than unsure, and more focused on providing himself with self-care so that he can honestly and with seemingly unlimited empathy and professionalism, preach what he practices.
It was my experience anyway, that I had had more experience with the parts of me who hadn't passed than I did with the parts who had. By not passing, I was comfortable. Comfortable with good enough. Passing meant accepting and living as if I belonged and was worthy of the respect, opportunities and yes, the envy of those with whom I'd be in professional accord.
Becoming licensed meant tolerating all the good parts of myself I had accepted in a more cerebral understanding, but I had not experienced ENOUGH of the more visceral acceptance. I knew I deserved to be counted amongst those whom I consider to be answering a higher calling than just a job or career. Once I (along with my awesome therapist) challenged my own understanding of my achieved self-worth, I allowed myself to viscerally experience what I needed to express.
I approached "studying" in MY own way and focused much more on self-care rather than the details of exam material. I paid attention to what I needed to FEEL secure and confident in myself EVEN IF I DIDN'T PASS AGAIN, and that last time, I passed.
I'm telling you that I absolutely had to practice feeling like I deserved to pass, because once on the "other side" of it, THOSE parts of me that were so comfortable prior to passing have absolutely no place on this side. Do what you need to do to let go of those comfortable but antiquated parts of yourself that are trying so hard to stay relevant and keeping you from realizing your dream! Those parts were good to you for a long time, but it's time to let go or be dragged!
PRACTICE MAKES MANAGEABLE
“Psychotherapy, far from from being any sort of procedure that is administered from a place of detachment, is always a dialogue between two personal universes, one that transforms both.”
- George Atwood
January 8, 2018
For me, addressing depression and anxiety as individual issues has always been a waste of time. They are two sides of the same coin. I've rejected the seemingly populist notion that depression/anxiety has been just an individual's reaction to their specific challenge(s).
However, if we don't FIRST honor that this specific individual has been made to feel like he/she/they are the only ones feeling, reacting and experiencing their world (THE world) in the way that they are, then it's a mute point to attempt to help them connect their experience/reaction (depression/anxiety) to their holistic selves.
I think the problem is that therapists/treaters stay in that First part. The part that honors, empathizes and acknowledges how specific the client's experience of (insert mental illness or diagnosis here) is. Even though I adamently subscribe to "validation is half the distance toward trust," we can become cemented in validating and encouraging and 'cheerleading' thus becoming another enabler to their "ailment" and dissatisfied lives.
It's not news to know that a lot of us enter the field in an attempt to heal ourselves (HEAL THYSELF 1st!), and so it stands to reason that staying in the role of perpetual cheerleader can be very self satisfying. However, helping people emotionally grow up also means helping them move into a more responsible place.
Responsible to themselves and then responsible to their world. The world. Besides, whoever said we were curing anyone or anything? We're healing not curing. There is a difference. Whaaaaa? You may say....Well, by helping others to manage their emotional reactions to life so well that they don't dramatically and disatisfyingly impose on their day to day exsistance.
Yes, OUR reactions to OUR world (first as children to the only world we know: with our caretakers), then OUR world becomes the communities in which we participate. OUR world becomes THE world. We do, have, and can change the world by starting with our own. How? You may ask... Well, wait for it......(insert unashamed plug for therapy)....by prioritizing our inner world.
Those with whom I am privledged to work (as do we all) have natural inner world reactions to our outer world challenges. As a therapist, I can help guide them (aka treatment) in being able to more AFFECTIVELY ( I know it's effectively but I'm making a point. We as therapists pay close attention to a person's emotional affect ) manage (aka growth) that natural but over extended reaction .
Over extended because of the amount of outer world challenges that increase. "But Tim, why do the challenges have to increase?" Because, my clearly intelligent reader: Life, if you're doing it authentically... is Hard! And it's brutal reality can flood, overwhelm, and painfully saturate your spirit (aka trauma).
Treating people isn't about helping them understand what the problem is and curing it by eradication. It's about helping them practice by assisting, guiding, modeling, reparenting the underdeveloped parts of themselves through more visceral experiences (aka feelings) which helps them better manage their world.... inside and out (see the movie, it's amazing)!.
In short, (I know, too late) it’s called Private Practice...I hope to help others practice this stuff privately first, then they can take it to the outside world and promote a NEW way to address a history of pain (aka anxiety/depression). And say simply. Very simply. With hope: Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes manageable.
F HAPPY TEARS!
"Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways." - Sigmund Freud
January 14, 2018
There is no such thing as "happy tears." It's an oxymoron to be sure. But it's not possible to express happiness by shedding tears. Tears are produced as a result of sadness. Sadness is about loss. When there is loss in our history and when we cry, that loss is at the forefront of our psyche. Joy or happiness is expressed in many different ways. None of which is with tears. To be joyous is to be satisfied. To express to others how content we are with that given situation.
"Then why good sir, when I'm happy or filled with joy, do I weep? Why when I am elated with joy am I instantly moved to tears?" The answer, reader extraordinaire, is in the question.
Imagine having a history of great loss, sorrow, disappointment. Those experiences are very painful and who wants to sit in or remember that? Well, consider that in order to not be stymied with a life just full of grief, our mind (psyche) "takes care" of us with those protectors... (insert booming echoing voice): The Defenses!
Defenses like suppressing those sad feelings or minimizing them with a quick, "other people have it worse." If we aren't emotionally strong enough in experience (not ability) or self aware enough to know what's happening with our own mind, our defenses will take over and any loss (especially the big ones), will be suppressed.
Suppressed until we become self aware (Therapy plug!), or until we experience the joy of NOT having a loss, consciously.
With each joyous moment, we are instantly transported back to those actual losses. During the happiest of times, we unconsciously recall that this joy has been a long time coming, and as we're happy, we also cry. Two separate feelings experienced at the exact same moment, commonly known as "Happy Tears."
This often confusing experience is a wonderful opportunity for us to recognize that all emotions and feelings (especially contradicting ones) are actually happening at the same time. We cannot control how we emotionally respond to something. We can, however become aware that there is a difference between what you feel, and what you do with that feeling.
We can handle them. We can tolerate them. We can accept and manage them. Why? (Good one!)...Because it's reality. Feelings don't have a timeline. They come up when they are good and ready.
It's up to us to allow them to be expressed, communicate to others what they mean to us, and allow them to inform us before we react or respond behaviorally. THAT we CAN control. We just need help at times with it that's all.
ADULTS CANNOT BE ABANDONED
The fear of loss is a path to the dark side. - Yoda
January 21, 2018
“The abandonment of self is the loneliest you’ll ever feel.”
If there’s a childhood history of actual abandonment (physical or emotional and especially around age 2 or before when we’re forming ourselves), the loss is so great that as we grow we search for that part of ourselves in others.
As we naturally attempt to establish what we in the biz call ‘a sense of agency,’ or what real people call a sense of self, we form ourselves based in the reflection of our caretakers. If one or both, or all of those who are assigned to help us grow up is unavailable emotionally, or limited in experience with being mindful enough to our needs, or were never around at all or enough; they’ve left us, and we, in turn, leave ourselves.
It is then and consistently afterwards that being left, not considered or abandoned becomes a fear. A genuinely horrific and ever growing fear in which we place meaning. As humans we must make sense of things. So this first “unknown” this initial loss, which becomes the “hole” within ourselves that we spend a lifetime trying to fill, ‘means’: “I’m unworthy of anyone sticking around.”
We find ourselves “attracted” to people, situations, and circumstances that repeat this established dynamic of being left. Forgotten...not considered.
When people leave (and I mean everything from moving away, to leaving the room without saying something, to actually dying), we are left with the FEELING of being lost. Empty. With losing ourselves. Abandoned.
HOWEVER, in reality, they are just moving on or forward or to their next feeling. But for those who have actually been abandoned as children, we experience loss, disappointment or someone else’s mood shift as if we’ve lost a major body part!
Healing happens when we emotionally go back in time and allow that original abandonment to be mourned (yup, feelings!). Those vulnerable feelings must be validated. Viscerally. Only then can a reparative experience occur and only presently healed can we participate in a future we desire.
Until then, we literally (Not ‘like literally’) But LITERALLY stuff our feelings with food, minimizing our hurt with jokes, or filling the emptiness with toxic people, places and drugs.
That initial loss has us pushing away what we really want and deserve: Connection, Intimacy, Acceptance.
Heal the original, actual abandonment, release the current holding in, stuffing, avoiding and minimizing hurts by having the courage to have those feelings validated....(by someone objective and most effectively a professional), and our self-structure, sense of agency or sense of ourselves is reformed, healed! Aaand in the most exciting ways, you will not recognize your current life.
With this kind of inner-hard work, we can better tolerate loss and disappointment, and we are able to move forward and achieve all we were meant to and were holding ourselves back from.
“I took childhood insecurities and turned them into an adulthood and career of which I am proud, and I am compassionately committed to helping others do the same.” — T. Rogers
January 28, 2018
Within our society’s lexicon, A Trigger is defined as an emotional/psychological reaction caused by something that somehow relates to an upsetting time or happening in someone’s life. This reaction is often found to happen in war veterans, people suffering with PTSD, depression, and other mental disorders.
As of late, social media has jumped on and added its own definition of what it’s like to be triggered (heads up! Trigger Warning!). Well, I say it’s time to let go of old ways of reacting to new stimuli. Release that childhood, past traumatic and very real experience of pain and move on!
Notice I did not say ‘Get over it.’ That phrase (along with ‘I’m fine’ or ‘whatever,’) and oh so many other antiquated words of expressing relief needs to go! For those who are courageous enough to look at themselves empathically, ‘getting over’ past pain, loss or trauma actually means MOVING THROUGH and then Moving on.
Triggers can be reminders, as pain is, that something isn’t finished, hasn’t been worked through… unprocessed. That the current painful emotional situations we find ourselves in are influenced and are informed by our past experiences and those feelings.
Those unprocessed feelings (think of it as a range from 0–30) stick around and when something present occurs (a 30–60 range), we (and those in front of us) experience the emotional reaction as a full 0–60!
To be triggered (from a clinical point of view), means to react as if what’s happened in the past is happening currently. Work with a strong therapist takes you back to the original emotionally painful place(s) (say you were forgotten to be picked up from school: feelings 0–30) and authentically validates how that might have been for you.
That way when your current partner returns from the grocery store and doesn’t remember to bring home the kind of cereal you like (30–60, a valid disappointment) your reaction isn’t: “What the hell?! Do you even know me, you never consider me??!!” (0–60).
Minimizing how we’re triggered to the point of managing our emotional life isn’t easy. The world will through us curve balls in the form of disappointments, loss, feelings of confusion; and those curve balls can have us emotionally reaching back to a time of serious pain. But doing the inner work required can address those valid but historical feelings and keep your current reactions from being all mighty and hysterical. To borrow from Alcoholics Anonymous: If it’s hysterical, its historical.
THE FEAR OF SUCCESS....
There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal, to convey to others who we are.”
February 4, 2018
But what if everything worked out and you achieved all you hoped for? Well, you may not recognize that person. In fact, you may even reject or sabotage that person’s very real, very ambitious attempts at achieving success.
If we grew up without receiving ENOUGH encouragement, or appreciation. If validation in the form of attention was lacking in childhood. If you did not receive the message (in all different kinds of forms) that just to be you was enough, then you, like so many others have much less experience with tolerating the successful you. And, when we lack experience, we can become insecure.
When we’re insecure and vulnerable to criticism, we will retreat to old ways of coping, old ways of tolerating, and old ways to get through those new feelings we are having with each success.
We will emotionally recalibrate to a place we have the most experience and feel the most comfortable. It may be an old self, it may be unhealthy and not working for us anymore, but damn if it’s not what and who we know.
The remedy? THERAPY. The relationship established between you and your therapist is the kind of relationship that doesn’t just cheerlead your accomplishments, but walks with you as you tolerate how new it is to feel good about being you in that accomplishment.
Why? So that you do not get that promotion, find that partner, or win that award and feel: it’s not enough… I’M NOT ENOUGH.
Participating in therapy provides you with the authentic experience of DESERVING to achieve. Having heard — Don’t get “too big for your britches” or “someone thinks highly of herself” is some serious BS!
Surround yourself with people who believe in your brand and you will achieve, accept, tolerate and keep your achievements.
Being brave enough to go to therapy provides you with the experience of being with the successful, healthy part of you who has known and felt worthy, but got talked out of it by someone else’s toxic agenda.
Go already. Be brave enough to ask for help and you’ll find the strength to face the fear and do it anyway!
SELF-LOVE: Being in the ability to love someone else
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. "-Maya Angelou
February 11, 2018
“If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an AMEN up in here?!” These immortal words from the world's most famous dragqueen, RuPaul Charles, have become part of our society's lexicon. But what exactly does loving yourself in order to love somebody else really mean?
One of the most consistent dynamics I find in working with people of all shapes, sizes, races, sexual orientation and social economic stature is: feeling like you belong makes all the difference in having a satisfying life.
In the beginning, we learn, gain, and take in not only how or who we are as people, but how we feel as people. Especially how we feel about ourselves. How we feel about ourselves begins not with compliments or rewards. It begins with feeling as though we matter. Most espeically to the people who brought us into this world. Then, to those in the world we choose to have, then.. to THE world.
As children we want that feeling of a brightened, joyful face of relief on our caretakers when we enter the room. Without that experience, we wonder. We question. We become Confused. And if the dimmed face of our caretaker(s) [dimmed for whatever reason - that's a future blog topic], isn't explained to us via emotions and reactions and eventually words....soon ENOUGH... our wondering, questioning and confusion become INSECURITIES.
"What did I do wrong?" What did I do to make that feeling of being unwanted come up from that face and then smack me right into mine?" Of course noone (especially children) are conscious of these dynamics, but you better believe they are felt! Those questions become obsessions that need to be answered. Voids to be filled. And as the humans we are, we must fill those voids with something.. ANYTHING. For the most part, for the majority of us... those unanswered questions are completed with, "I did something wrong".... "I didn't do enough".... "I'M not enough."
When we establish that way of thinking as a norm or "hard wiring"... the feelings that follow provide "proof" and confirm or better yet, cement a way of exsisting that behaviors soon follow. Behaviors of "attention seeking," or "acting out." Tantrums, definance, eventually self-deprecating or even self-harm. Why? Becasue if we're not enough for the people who brought us into this world, who will we ever be good enough for?
We find ourselves in toxic relationships, low paying jobs, communities and careers which do not honor or value our input because , well, we're used to not feeling like we're enough. This becomes our base narrative and we actually believe it's who we are.. and who would love who we are (or who we believe we are)? So loving that person becomes less of an option and of course loving anyone who would love that person becomes "impossible."
Now, of course, not smiling at a child when they enter the room is not the trauma which leads to poor self-worth, HOWEVER... that message sent, that belief system made concreate by "proofs" here and there.. for ... years repeated over and over by our own voices in our heads.. THAT'S the stuff we as therapists help to unpack, revisit and provide a safe place for. And then what? Yeah, I know..
Well, and then we uproot that belief system by dancing with those defenses that have been so good to us as children. Those defenses that answered those questions for us, filled the void of: "What happened?" What did I do wrong?" Answers the question with: "It's your fault" or "You aren't worthy."
We dance and then help clients say thank you, but you are no longer needed to "keep me safe." When we can be vulnerable enough to place our defenses aside (once we first realize what they are.. see whey they call therapy work?").. then we can see with eyes wide open that the belief system, the thoughts and feelings that followed from a misinterpretation of ourself was false.
Then, and only then can we truly FEEL what it's like to experience self-appreciation, self-worth, self-love. From there... comes self-esteem and from there.. self-confidence. AND. FROM. THERE...... the ability to ALLOW someone(s) else to love us. and THAT my friends.. is how we know, feel and can behave like we are in the ability to love someone else. Amen.
LEARNING TO BE SELFISH!
To Thine Own Self be True:
Changing the way we see selfishness in relationship.
March 14, 2018
Most people understand and agree that dating is about gathering information. Would this person I’m physically attracted to be a good parent? Would she be someone I can trust to stay faithful? Would he be of support to me if I wanted to change careers? Would they accept all parts of me, good, bad, and the oh so seemingly ugly?
These questions seem obvious when considering those all important first few dates with someone new. Moreover, this can be the established line of questioning to our partners after being together for years. “What about you?” What do you want?” Where do you want to go for dinner? Me? It’s up to you. I’ll have what you’re having.”
But what if the questions to ask weren’t about the person sitting across from you on those dates or when the kids are with a sitter, or have gone on to college? What if those questions needed to be asked of the person in the mirror ...BEFORE the times when it’s just you and your partner?
In my therapeutic work with couples of all shapes, sizes, cultures, races, genders, sexual orientations, and religious affiliations I have found that across the board people don’t seem to take enough time to answer those questions (and oh so many others) of THEMSELVES before going on a date, or after years together....let alone before committing or reestablishing that commitment to a lifetime of partnering.
If we could make our vulnerable selves a priority, if we would consider what is more deeply important to us beyond parenting skills, imperfect but consistent emotional support or even the holy grail of fidelity. Yes, if we looked at AND beyond looks, bank accounts or potential social status... studies and my personal and professional experience have shown that there is a significantly higher percentage of couples having success not only staying married, but also in remaining happily married.
This, of course, can not only be a challenge but even controversial. How do I focus on me without making it ALL about me or being labeled a selfish narcissistic....person?! How do I consider my partner’s needs and mine without feeling like I’m getting the short end of the relationship stick?! Well... here’s how: it’s in the order of the consideration, and the redefining of what it means to be “selfish.”
Oh I know... you’re like, what? Repeat please. Huh? Come again! Okay, consider this: Being selfish is: ONLY considering yourself and not ever really considering others. Whereas considering others after you’ve taken the time to know how you feel first, is like ... you know how on a flight anywhere, they tell you in case of an emergency to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before placing it on that baby in your arms.”
Without taking the time, the effort, the attention to know who you are, and especially how you feel (which is how we find who we are.. but that’s another session)... how do we know to whom we are giving ourselves? How can we really be sure that the person we’ve chosen is the person for us ... forever? Let’s get even deeper... how do you know WHY you’re even attracted to this person? ....It’s in your self care.
Self care is a buzz word that has become popularized (thank goodness) in the lexicon of general society, but has not (in my humble opinion) been b-r-o-k-e-n d-o-w-n. Broken down in a way that helps us understand how AND really why it’s oh ..so ..VERY important... to everything in our life of relationships.
Connecting whom you choose to marry or stay with and the idea of self care may seem like a long shot, but hear me out.
Caring about and for yourself starts with your thoughts to yourself. The things we say to ourselves that no one else hears... buuuut everyone sees and feels! Yeah, everybody knows.
When we talk down to ourselves we are establishing the standard by which anyone we’re in relationship with will abide by. So then, why wouldn’t the person we find ourselves attracted to, the person we plan to offer to or accept a proposal from; the one person to whom we promise to stay together forever by marrying or recommitting to, treat us in any other way except by our own status quo?
Look, not only does what we tell children become their inner voice, but we date at the level of our self esteem. So if we take the time to learn about, appreciate and establish a way of treating ourselves, not only will we find and keep our ideal matched partner, we’ll be better able to pass on this level of expectation to our own children, the children of others and really to any children we come across. Especially the one inside of ourselves.
Change the way you’ve understood selfishness, and you change the way success in relationship becomes your true self ....in all relationships. #RelationshipGoals
TAKING PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together"
April 9, 2018
Mentoring is the answer period. Having someone who sees and helps encourage the real you whom you aren’t able to see. If you’ve ever listened to your own voice recorded, it doesn’t sound accurate to you but everyone outside your own head tells you it’s exactly how you sound. It’s because the acoustics within our skull keep us from hearing our accurate voice. It’s not physically possible to have objectivity of ourselves. So it goes with the sense of who we are or what we can achieve. We need an outside voice who sees us OBJECTIVELY.
Notice my suBtle use of be word objectively. Someone who has our best interest. Someone who thinks of us as human and knows we are valuable. Someone emotionally intelligent. Someone safe.
If we grow up with emotionally inept (trauma) or limited care taking (more self doubt than self confidence), we do not have the sense of agency (or structured sense of yourselves) to even TRY to “rise above, “ or “pick ourselves up from our bootstraps.” We are limited and therefore at a disadvantage from our very beginning. It's like giving a 10 year old keys to a new car and when she wrecks it, we blame, punish and shame her for not taking personal responsibilty for her actions. We may chronologically be 35, but emotionally we are (depending on our emotional upbringing) MUCH, MUCH younger.
Society, if it’s to evolve to a truly successful place, must accept responsibility for ITSELF first and nurture those of its members who have no idea how much their limited thinking of themselves, come into the world with limited care taking (and therefore limited self-care taking) and an empathic but honest self-awareness. This is especially true since society’s own limitations in its self awareness is such a huge factor in a person coming into the world with limited caretakers in the first place.
When that happens (we are raised by human beings, so theres always something to look at), those caretakers are limited in their parenting because THEIR care takers were limited. Generations of self doubt, self destructive and self sabotage are woven into our personal fabric and strongly influence our limited and false sense of self because society has a whole is still learning the enviable truth:
IF YOU WANT TO GO FAST, GO ALONE. IF YOU WANT TO GO FAR, GO TOGETHER.